When I was a bald-faced boy (with cheek of tan), there were a couple of places in our town where everyone got their back-to-school clothes. One was Finkelstein's, where one of the brothers who owned and operated the store was a dead ringer for Richard Deacon, the man so talented that he was able to play both Mel Cooley on "Dick Van Dyke" and Fred Rutherford on "Leave It To Beaver" simultaneously.
I greatly preferred "Finky's" to Barry's Ivy Shop, where the woman who owned the place would always ask how the pants fit in certain regions that we young guys in the throes of pubescence cared not to discuss with anyone.
But I can remember spending many a late-August afternoon in Stewart's, a department store with branches all over Baltimore. The one we visited was on York Rd at the city-county line. In the same shopping center was a Hamburger's men's shop, a Doubleday book store, a Read's drugstore, and a McCrory's 5 & 10. All of these businesses are now defunct, but the old Stewart's store has been "repurposed" as an office building, housing...me, daily. It's where my new job is, and I am as happy as a lightning bug with a new battery to be there. I just wonder if I am ever standing in the exact place where once khaki pants, button down tattersall shirts, club ties, crew neck sweaters and herringbone sports jackets were sold.
I get the biggest kick out of going back to the places of yesterday. My elementary school is still around, teaching kids about stuff we had yet to envision when I trod those halls in Jack Purcells. The lockers are still name-labelled, except that there are no more Henrys and Richards and Donalds and Janes and Barbaras and Susans. Next time I ankle around there, I'll be wearing Rockports, the favorite of mallwalkers across America. And people named Jacob, Matthew, Ryan, Emily, Madison and Emma will wonder who is the old man with bad feet and a happy, nostalgic grin.